LOS ANGELES — Rich Hill took the loss on Monday night, just like he took the loss the last time the Dodgers lost — way back on June 15 — but there were building blocks in this start that have the Dodgers confident in the left-hander going forward.
Hill, who normally pitches from the stretch during warmups, changed his delivery in between starts with the help of pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. The result was Hill’s his most effective outing this season on Monday, allowing three runs in seven innings while striking out seven.
“It was kind of a modified windup, abbreviated stretch,” manager Dave Roberts said. “The repeatability led to the command of the breaking ball. The fastball had life and the direction was great.”
It was a marked change from his first nine starts, in which Hill had a mediocre 4.73 ERA and was averaging just 4.44 innings per outing. Hill had not pitched into the sixth inning this season until Monday night, when he lasted seven. It was not what the Dodgers expected when signing the 37-year-old Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract in the offseason.
“When you go through struggles, I don’t think anybody knows the end date. But today definitely felt more like myself than any game I have pitched all year,” Hill said. “The ball came out of my hand the way I want to.”
“He pitched the way 2016 Rich threw the baseball,” Roberts said. “This is what we expected from him. Win or lose, the way he competed, the way he attacked the strike zone. He was in control.”
Roberts even let Hill bat, down 3-0 in the fifth inning.
“For me, he was filling up the strike zone and had command of his pitches. He was getting swings and misses,” Roberts said. “I thought he deserved that opportunity. It was a no-brainer.”
Hill induced 11 swings and misses on Monday, his second-highest total of the year. He averaged 7.67 swings and misses per start in his first nine appearances.
Hill credited his new delivery for lasting deeper into the game.
“It was the result of mechanical adjustments and just being able to be more efficient,” Hill said. “I felt like I was able to gather myself and was able to finish my pitches at the front.
“I felt like myself again, and it felt good,” Hill said.
The Dodgers conclude their nine-game homestand on Tuesday — after saving me some time needing to looking up previous undefeated homestands in club history — with Kenta Maeda on the mound, facing off against another old friend in Jesse Chavez for the Angels.